About Our Team

The Bethel ALB Cooperative is a grassroots advocacy group dedicated to the preservation of our healthy non-infested trees.
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The core team
Paul Barbick, Patti Hornak, Nancy McCarthy, Bill Skvarla, Denae Bowen, Doug Simmons, not pictured Thelma Bennett
The tree behind The Team is a 61" DBH Green Ash that is approximately 250 years old, and will be destroyed if the USDA/ODA get their way

Members of our team:

Bill Skvarla:  Founder of the Team, Meeting Chair

Patti Hornak:  Research, Meeting Minutes

Thelma Bennett:  Financial

Nancy McCarthy:  Web page

Paul Barbick:  Head of our EA Response Team, Media Coordinator

Doug Simmons:  Legal

Denae Bowen:  Community Outreach

Our email is checked daily, so you can contact any member of our team at bethelalb@att.net,

or on our Facebook page, Bethel – Asian Longhorned Beetle.

Our Facebook page now has over 1,300 members.

facebook w bug

How this team came together:

    Bill Skvarla, owner of Harmony Hill Vineyards & Winery, discovered that there was a destructive and invasive beetle eating away at the maple trees in his yard in June of 2011 and made a few calls to find out more.  To his surprise, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) branch of the USDA began to work with the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) almost immediately to form an eradication plan and to assess the extent of the infestation of the Asian Longhorned Beetle. Tate Township was put under a quarantine to eliminate the further spread of the infestation through firewood distribution or any other movement of wood beyond the quarantined area. (The quarantine has subsequently expanded to include Monroe Township, Stonelick Township, and Batavia Township). There have been people climbing and assessing area trees and conducting delimiting surveys to find the extent of the infestation ever since.

    After the USDA/APHIS held the first few public meetings, we learned more about this beetle.  They informed us about the process of identifying trees, and told us that any tree that was already infested would have to be cut down.  While many people were heartbroken at the prospect of having their infested trees removed, not a single homeowner said that they were opposed to the USDA doing just that… until October 28, 2011 when at least 80 homeowners received a certified letter from the USDA containing the text, "Eradication activities include: removal of all host species," … "Host trees include all species of the following 13 genera: maple, elm, birch, ash, sycamore, poplar, willow, horse chestnut, mountain ash, hackberry, golden raintree, katsura, and mimosa,.". (Emphasis added) By a rough calculation we jumped from (at the time) nearly 5,000 trees to 50,000 trees that the USDA and the ODA wanted to remove from the same area. Further, there was evidence that the intent was to sell the chips at a profit by the contractor in order to partially fund the eradication plan.  However, there would be no compensation to the homeowner for the loss of their trees or sale of their woodchips.  Many of us feel that is an abuse of power and confiscation of our private property by the government.  It would be a clear violation of our rights.

    At that point, many property owners felt they had been misled by the USDA/APHIS, and met together to discuss the different issues we were being faced with. Bill Skvarla had been compiling questions and information and was instrumental in uniting us as a group with a cause. Doug Simmons had put up a Facebook page to hash out questions and ideas. The people joining us on Facebook have soared to over 1300 members and the exchanges have been amazing. We have a whole host of brilliant people in our community.

    Close to 400 of our neighbors came to the next public meeting held by the USDA on November 7, 2011 to find out exactly what the plan was and why it differed from the earlier plan. The USDA officials backpedaled at that meeting when they said that the tree cutting on November 14th would be only infested trees.  They had yet to complete the required Environmental Assessment (EA). At that time, they told us that an EA was needed to increase the number of trees to be cut down from 5,000 to 50,000 and when it was finished, the public will have an opportunity to respond. The tensions escalated as the USDA representatives were evasive and seemed unwilling to entertain any other options besides the total clearing of all of the healthy, potential host trees along with the infested trees. It became obvious that we would have to seek representation.

    At that point, our core team formed, when Doug and Bill announced that we had entered into an agreement with the legal firm of Dinsmore & Shohl to represent us, Nancy created an informational newsletter that was distributed door to door in the area most affected by the beetle and created this BethelALB website, Thelma began collecting contributions for the legal defense fund, Paul stayed busy doing research and digging up alternative ways to proceed.  He organized a team to evaluate the EA and form a response.  Patti assisted in finding research and taking minutes at the meetings, and Denae joined in to organize volunteers and help with public outreach.  Bill has continued as our spokesperson, and we’ve all had some time speaking to the media and/or to our neighbors in a concerted effort to "get the news out".

    Since their public meeting in November of 2011, the USDA did not host another meeting until June of 2012, and that was not in Tate Township, but in Owensville.  They have not had a public outreach in Bethel or adjacent to Bethel since that meeting.  In the meantime, the property owners were having thousands of infested trees cut by Young’s General Contracting, many times leaving their property badly damaged.  Residents did not know who to go to with questions, who to contact to get property damage fixed, what their rights were if people were on their property when they weren’t home, etc.  Posts started showing up on Facebook that had very conflicting answers from the USDA/ODA/APHIS and Young’s General Contracting.  Since the USDA was not holding meetings to help sort any of this out as they had originally stated, our team realized that we needed to take matters into our own hands and find the answers out ourselves.  We have spent many hours making calls, sending emails, contacting state representatives, speaking with media, and doing research to advocate for our residents in Tate Township.  Among the many things we have learned about the Asian Longhorned Beetle, perhaps the most important may be the safe ways The USDA has chemically treated and saved healthy trees through the use of tree injections of imidacloprid. We found that this treatment has been used successfully in MA, IL and NJ, but never offered to us, even though their own scientists and spokespeople have quoted it as being 99.9% effective. As a matter of fact, there have been times where “educators” have misrepresented the successful eradication in Chicago as having been the result of the elimination of all host species trees (1777 trees in all) and never mentioned the 290,000+ trees that were treated with imidacloprid.  This leads one to an erroneous conclusion in how successful eradication has been accomplished.  Our team has hosted many public town hall meetings to inform our residents of what is really going on and what their rights are as property owners.  The USDA and ODA have been invited to them and have declined.

    The Environmental Assessment was released after months of waiting, and the public was given 60 days to comment on the 4 options the USDA presented.  Under 2 of the options listed in the EA, we would have an estimated 1.3 – 3+ million trees cut in our county.  The affects that would have on our ecosystem, property values and way of life would be unconceivable.  Our team once again spent many hours in public outreach to educate people about how important it was for them to submit their comments and share their ideas about how to best eradicate this beetle RESPONSIBLY.  We remain poised to respond in the defense of our environment as we await the decision of the USDA on how eradication will proceed.